GOSSIP & RUMORS: Walt Frazier, Mike Breen talk 25 years as MSG’s Knicks voices
A wall in 10-year-old Mike Breen’s childhood home was — and still is, he claims — adorned with a poster of his basketball idol, the flashy point guard of the Knicks known to multiple generations of adoring fans simply as Clyde.
Decades later, Breen and Walt Frazier became broadcast partners, first on radio and then — with the Knicks facing the Magic on Feb. 5, 1999 — sharing the call of a game on MSG Networks for the first time.
“They just showed us a clip of it. I look like I’m 11, and this son of a [gun] looks the same now as he did back then,” Breen joked while seated next to the 78-year-old Frazier for an interview last week.
MSG will celebrate the popular pairing’s 25-year anniversary of the start of their TV partnership on Tuesday night with the airing of a chat with the Hall of Fame play-by-play man and his beloved longtime partner — now a two-time Hall inductee as both a superstar player and a colorful color analyst — before, during and after Tuesday’s broadcast of the Knicks’ game against the Grizzlies.
“When you’re a professional player, you know there’s a limit. Sooner or later guys retire, 12 years, 14 years if you’re lucky,” Frazier said. “It was something new for me, I was enjoying it and then working with Mike, and liking to work with Mike, I never thought about the time sequence of it.
“But it doesn’t seem like 25 years.”
Of course, Frazier’s No. 10 hangs in the Garden rafters following a stellar playing career with the Knicks that featured seven All-Star appearances and two NBA championships from 1967-77.
Like Phil Rizzuto’s dual career with the Yankees, another generation knows Frazier more for his rhyming, impeccable timing and fashion sense alongside Breen for the past two-plus decades.
“For me, it was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Breen said. “There’s nothing I could ever possibly have dreamed of when I got the call to be the Knicks radio announcer. … But then it turns out my partner is a guy who was one of my childhood heroes.
“I was petrified at first. He didn’t know it at the time. But I was so nervous. … Here’s this Hall of Famer, I’m a young broadcaster and for him to bring me in and respect and treat me with such kindness gave me all the confidence in the world.”
Breen, whose signature “Bang” call also has been a staple as a national broadcaster for ABC and ESPN for the past 18 NBA Finals, joined Frazier in the Hall of Fame when he won the prestigious Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2020.
Frazier also was honored as a broadcaster two years later, 35 years after his induction for his playing days in 1987.
“It’s unprecedented. It really is,” Breen said. “I mean, what he’s done, he’s made such a niche in his style, and he’s never wavered off the style. When he first started doing the rhymes, he took some criticism. It wasn’t greeted with open arms, but he stayed with it. And his vocabulary is just off the charts.
“His style is so unique. But the thing, too, every game you listen — and I still do — I learn something. It’s amazing how this great Hall of Fame player has become this great Hall of Fame broadcaster. I think it’s one of the most remarkable things.”
Frazier says “what catapulted both of us into the Hall of Fame” was starting out on radio together during the 1992-93 season, and receiving mentoring about being descriptive and opinionated from legendary broadcaster Marty Glickman, who predated Marv Albert and Breen as play-by-play announcers for the Knicks.
“When I first met Mike, I didn’t know anything about the adulation that he had for me,” Frazier said, referring to the poster in Breen’s childhood home in Yonkers. “They had us do a simulation game at the Garden, and it was uncanny the chemistry we had, but our whole thing has been about respect.
“Mike gave me an opportunity to articulate more than the normal color guy. The first time we got together, he goes, ‘Clyde, people want to hear what you have to say, man, so just say it. Don’t worry about the nuances, just say it and do your thing.’ That gave me a lot of confidence when he said that.”
The Knicks, of course, reached the NBA Finals in 1994 and 1999, and as Breen recalled, “Those teams were so good, and there was such an excitement in the city. I’m thinking, ‘Man, it doesn’t get any better than this. Every year the team I grew up rooting for is a team that has a chance to win a championship, and I’m calling games with a guy that I grew up rooting for.’ ”
After watching a lot of unwatchable basketball together for much of the next two decades, however, Frazier glowingly says he’s “living vicariously” through the current squad led by Tom Thibodeau, and All-Stars Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle.
“I see a lot of similarities between my championship teams,” Frazier said. “The defense, Thibs is like [Hall of Fame coach] Red [Holzman], holding these guys accountable. Their camaraderie, the players like each other, they mingle together, so I’m really respecting that.
“I think of Earl the Pearl [Monroe], when he was traded to the Knicks [in 1971], they said it would never work. You know, we’d need two basketballs, but what they overlooked was our mutual respect for each other. And that’s what has made Mike and I [as a duo], respect, man. He respected me from Day 1, and we became a formidable team.”
Frazier has cut back on road games in recent seasons, but he says he’d like to continue working with Breen “for as long as I can,” before adding “and hopefully we’ll see another championship in that time.”